Juan Curiel, 34, Visalia, California, and Santiago Palacios, 44, Salinas, California, have been charged in an 11-count indicted for their roles in an alleged foreclosure rescue scheme.
The Indictment, which was returned May 2, 2013, by a federal grand jury in Fresno, California, alleges that Curiel and Palacios were the principal operators of Star Reliable Mortgage, a business in Bakersfield, Visalia and Salinas, California, through which they offered prospective clients a home loan elimination service. The defendants falsely represented to clients that the government had allocated to each of their social security accounts $1 million, which could be used to pay off their mortgages. The defendants also falsely represented to clients that they could own their homes free and clear by paying fees to defendants, who, in turn, would conduct forensic audits of the clients’ mortgage lenders’ files to uncover supposed fraud by the lenders.
According to the Indictment, between August 2010 and October 2011, Curiel and Palacios charged clients an upfront fee for their services — ranging from $2,500 up to $4,500 — as well as monthly fees. Curiel and Palacios then fraudulently recorded and mailed to the clients’ mortgage lenders deeds and re-conveyances supposedly replacing the lender-trustees with fictitious trusts affiliated with the defendants. On at least one occasion, Curiel fraudulently filed bankruptcy on behalf of a client. The scheme involved more than $2.5 million in losses to private homeowners and lending institutions.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty for the conspiracy and mail fraud counts is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum penalty for bankruptcy fraud is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the charges.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Baker is prosecuting the case.